Fuse 8 n’ Kate: The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, ill. Gustaf Tenggren
It seems very odd to me that one of the most commercially successful children’s books to ever be published in the United States has an almost entirely obscure author to its name. The mystery of Janette Sebring Lowrey hangs over our latest episode of this podcast. Neither Kate nor I had ever read this book before, and yet it bragged back in 2001 of having sold nearly 15 million copies. The illustrator’s wife once joked that the artist was pleased that he’d given the Bible a “run for its money”. But is it actually any good? We consider The Poky Little Puppy on all his roly-poly glory.
Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or your preferred method of podcast selection.
Let’s take a nice long gaze at the author of this book. This is the image that Leonard Marcus managed to find and publish in his book Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way (older book jacket for that book seen below).
Just to give you a sense of what we’re dealing with here, I found that all copies of this book were gone from my library and so I had to settle with handing Kate this:
To cram as many Little Golden Book tales into one package as humanly possible, they had to change the design significantly. As a result, the first page of the Puppy’s story looks like this:
Which is all well and good, until you realize that the caterpillar here is now roughly the same size as the puppies. And it looks like it’s definitely gunning for the orange one.
As Kate says, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Frog & Toad and Tuesday, it’s that frogs are green and toads are brown.” We know toads. We have seen toads. And you, sir, are no toad.
I’m enough of a Looney Tunes graduate to appreciate the old written sign gag ala Wile E. Coyote. And I’m rather delighted by the notion that either the puppy’s mom or some human who owns the puppies is writing these signs, forgetting the simple fact that puppies can’t read.
Of course, of all the signs, this next one is my favorite. Let’s diagram this sentence a bit, shall we? Just break it down:
NO desserts EVER UNLESS puppies NEVER dig holes under this fence AGAIN (stresses my own). Holy moly.
By the way, how awesome is this image of Ursula Nordstrom (who I literally didn’t think had anything to do with this book)?
You could have a lot of fun reading the Gabriel Roth Slate article Why So Poky? The Scourge of Terrible Canonical Children’s Books. Seemed pertinent to our podcast, don’t you think?
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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